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The Mirror Cracked: symmetry and refinement in the Acheulean handaxe

The Mirror Cracked: symmetry and refinement in the Acheulean handaxe
The Mirror Cracked: symmetry and refinement in the Acheulean handaxe
The Acheulean is a stone tool industry that originates in Africa over 1.7 mya. It is characterised by the bifacially shaped handaxe as part of a group of tools commonly referred to as LCTs – large cutting tools. Traditionally, the Lower Palaeolithic/Early Stone Age Acheulean is seen as continuing throughout much of the Old World until c. 0.25 mya and the advent of the Middle Palaeolithic, though handaxe usage continues well after this. At least two different hominin species are responsible for making handaxes across this time span, H. ergaster/erectus, H. heidelbergensis. It is possible that the earliest H. sapiens in Africa also made and used handaxes. A long running debate concerns whether or not there is an evolution in Acheulean material culture. This involves the belief that handaxes and other LCTs become more refined and sophisticated as time goes by. There are two schools of thought on this. The first argues that advances in Acheulean material culture march in lockstep with brain and cognitive evolution, while the second sees a mismatch between them. In this latter scenario material culture falls behind cognitive evolution. We argue that the key to understanding Acheulean material culture is variability and that symmetry and refinement in handaxes are likely to be situational/local. No long term trends are visible in the archaeological record which show an increase in refinement or handaxe symmetry. We suggest a ‘variable equilibrium’ model to explain the patterns seen and show how the archaeology maps onto similar biological interpretations.
handaxe, acheulean, LCT, cognition, hominin, social brain, theory of mind, intentionality, symmetry, refinement, biface, hominin evolution
0305-4403
100-111
McNabb, John
59e818b1-3196-4991-93eb-75ed9c898e71
Cole, James
3d3e0991-bf3d-4d14-98f3-ce391142cda7
McNabb, John
59e818b1-3196-4991-93eb-75ed9c898e71
Cole, James
3d3e0991-bf3d-4d14-98f3-ce391142cda7

McNabb, John and Cole, James (2015) The Mirror Cracked: symmetry and refinement in the Acheulean handaxe. Journal of Archaeological Science, 3, 100-111. (doi:10.1016/j.jasrep.2015.06.004).

Record type: Article

Abstract

The Acheulean is a stone tool industry that originates in Africa over 1.7 mya. It is characterised by the bifacially shaped handaxe as part of a group of tools commonly referred to as LCTs – large cutting tools. Traditionally, the Lower Palaeolithic/Early Stone Age Acheulean is seen as continuing throughout much of the Old World until c. 0.25 mya and the advent of the Middle Palaeolithic, though handaxe usage continues well after this. At least two different hominin species are responsible for making handaxes across this time span, H. ergaster/erectus, H. heidelbergensis. It is possible that the earliest H. sapiens in Africa also made and used handaxes. A long running debate concerns whether or not there is an evolution in Acheulean material culture. This involves the belief that handaxes and other LCTs become more refined and sophisticated as time goes by. There are two schools of thought on this. The first argues that advances in Acheulean material culture march in lockstep with brain and cognitive evolution, while the second sees a mismatch between them. In this latter scenario material culture falls behind cognitive evolution. We argue that the key to understanding Acheulean material culture is variability and that symmetry and refinement in handaxes are likely to be situational/local. No long term trends are visible in the archaeological record which show an increase in refinement or handaxe symmetry. We suggest a ‘variable equilibrium’ model to explain the patterns seen and show how the archaeology maps onto similar biological interpretations.

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McNabb and Cole 2015 JAS Reports eprints.pdf - Accepted Manuscript
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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 2 June 2015
e-pub ahead of print date: 10 June 2015
Published date: September 2015
Keywords: handaxe, acheulean, LCT, cognition, hominin, social brain, theory of mind, intentionality, symmetry, refinement, biface, hominin evolution
Organisations: Archaeology

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 377746
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/377746
ISSN: 0305-4403
PURE UUID: 95f4e31b-5c29-4446-85fd-214cda311064

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Date deposited: 04 Jun 2015 13:48
Last modified: 17 Sep 2019 05:29

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Author: John McNabb
Author: James Cole

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